Italian pleasure boating keeps growing

The 63rd Genoa International Boat Show, held from 21 to 26 September, reasserted its exceptional nature with 118,269 visitors (a 13.9% growth compared to 2022), 1,043 brands on display and over 1,000 boats with 143 more berths in the water thanks to the opening of new canals.

Italian pleasure boating keeps growing

6 minutes, 20 secondes

Saverio Cecchi, president of Confindustria Nautica, commented: “This event is the mirror of an industry that recorded a global turnover of €7.33 billion in 2022, with a 20% growth over the previous year.

An industry that is doing very well

The Global Order Book developed by Boat International sees a 17.5% growth in global superyacht orders by 2023 compared to the previous year, reaching 1,203 units under construction. Italy further strengthens its global leadership, confirming its shipbuilding industry at the top ranking with 593 yachts. An all-time high of orders that corresponds to an overall length of 22,056 metres. As in recent years, the Italian share stands at around half of world orders (49.3%), with an increase of 70 units compared to 2022.

“The nautical industry has always been able to maintain high growth rates. When the global traffic, which was interrupted by the pandemic, resumed, the industry maintained its record global sales on world markets in the superyacht segment. It fluctuated from 49% to 51% thanks to the ‘made in Italy’ products characteristics, recognised and appreciated throughout the world. Our data tell us that, at the end of 2023, we will reach a turnover of over 7 billion, with a growth close to 20% compared to the previous year,” stated Marina Stella, general director of Confindustria Nautica.

The leading players of this boom are many, including to name a few: Azimut-Benetti, Ferretti Group (Ferretti Yachts, Riva, Pershing, Itama, CRN, Custom Line, Wally), Sanlorenzo (together with Bluegame) and Baglietto. All authentic giants capable of exhibiting the best of style and innovation with impressive fleets, which have been joined by those of other prestigious groups such as Palumbo (ISA Yachts, Columbus, Mondomarine, Extra), Permare (Amer Yachts), Tankoa, TISG (Admiral, Perini, Picchiotti, Tecnomar) and Arcadia, the winner of the Innovation Trophy in Cannes, with the newly created flagship A96.

Green shipyards favoured

This success is also due to the fact that shipyards have understood that they must focus on eco-compatibility and wellness, the well-being ensured by light and direct contact with the sea. Although the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) has certified that yachting accounts for only 0.22% of the total emissions of the entire shipping sector, this sector demonstrates a strong propensity for innovation, also supported by the growing environmental awareness of ship owners.

Research brought not only aesthetic changes but also changes in materials and propulsion systems. The commitment to environmental compatibility fosters the development of hybrid and “clean” fuels, from biodiesel to hydrogen.

Azimut-Benetti boasts the first fuel cell tested on board, the first hybrid yacht and a fleet of low-emission boats that emit up to 30% less CO2 than comparable boats. The Magellano 60, which received the Innovation Design Award in Genoa, will continue testing the biodiesel produced by ENI. CRN, a Ferretti Group brand, obtained the Sustainable Powered Yacht certification for a project involving the installation of fuel cells on board a superyacht catamaran.

As proof of the growing commitment to green boating, the use of solar panels as well as eco-friendly and recyclable materials is increasing. Even if carbon fibre is increasingly used for structures, research continues for shipyards that for years have been busy looking for recyclable materials for nautical construction.

An innovation to follow up: rComposite

Nlcomp developed rComposite, a sustainable alternative to traditional fibreglass (see box). After developing their own patented material, they produced the first 7.50-metre dinghy, the Ecoracer 25, now followed by the Ecoracer 30, both designed by Matteo Polli (Figure 1). This is the first mass-produced recyclable boat in the world, showing that dinghies can be highly sustainable through the use of natural fibres, such as flax fibre, combined with a thermoplastic matrix, while maintaining competitiveness and performance. Each type of rComposite material has a different sustainability index, but they all share the common characteristic of allowing easy recycling of both resin and fibres.

Three types of rComposite materials are available, depending on their composition:
– rComposite F: the most sustainable solution due to the use of flax fibre.
– rComposite G: glass fibres + thermoplastic resin, so the glass fibres can be easily recycled.
– rComposite R: specifically designed for high-performance sailing boats. Features a thermoplastic matrix and fibres locally reinforced with carbon fibre for greater strength and performance.

Fig. 1: The Ecoracer 30 designed by Matteo Polli
Fig. 1: The Ecoracer 30 designed by Matteo Polli

Research continues and new combinations of resins with thermoplastic fibres, natural fibres such as bamboo or hemp, but also recycled carbon fibre fabrics are tested. Each resin and fibre combination undergoes mechanical characterisation to gain a deeper understanding of their mechanical properties. To ensure an optimised material for the intended future use, the material has to be created thinking about the project and the specific production process considered (Figure 2).

Fig. 2: nlcomp materials

Fabio Bignolini, CEO of nlcomp says: “To test rComposite and demonstrate that there was an alternative solution to fibreglass, we built our own boats, which not only were successful in regattas, but also received many awards. We are now ready to share our experience, offering other shipyards opportunities to license our material and know-how.”

Matteo Polli states: “From an engineering point of view, the Ecoracer 30 represented a fascinating challenge. The project had two main requirements: first, reusing existing moulds to minimise the environmental impact; secondly, designing a versatile boat capable of providing excellent performance in different wind and sea conditions. Furthermore, these objectives had to be achieved using sustainable materials, whose mechanical properties were taken into account from the early stages of the design process.”

The boat was designed and produced in three important sites of the Italian marine industry: Monfalcone, Fano and Genoa. Magnani Yachts, the first shipyard in Italy to hold the rComposite construction license, was in charge of producing the composite materials using thermoplastic resins, a combination of virgin and recycled carbon fibres and Amplitex flax fibres from Bcomp which have a significantly lower carbon footprint than traditional fibreglass. The Atlas HPE recyclable core was provided by NMG Europe and the recyclable moulds were created by Breton, using its Genesis 3D printer. Arkema supplied thermoplastic resins with characteristics comparable to those of traditional resins.

The 2023 Deloitte report for Confindustria Nautica, “The state of the art of the global yachting market”, confirms that this sector has been continuously growing in Italy since 2021. This industry contributes to almost 3% of the Italian GDP, with a total value of 3.6 billion EUR for the production of new boats.

New boat production increased by 34% between 2020 and 2021 and the Italian shipbuilding industry’s turnover increased by almost 20% in 2022. Exports also grew by as much as 34.7%. So much so that the Italian industry is second in the world for the production of large boats, with a 12% global market share. Italy also is first in the world for the production of superyachts, especially 30-60-metre boats.

The forecasts for 2023 and the immediate future are equally positive. The Deloitte report predicts an Italian nautical production of 4.3 billion euros in 2022. Both in Italy and the rest of the world, the future of this industry seems to be boats between 80-150 feet with Europe at the helm of the global market.

Data courtesy of Confindustria Nautica

Sangiorgio Marine and Northern Light Composites ready for a new venture

At Genoa 2023, the Ecoracer 30 was launched on the occasion of the Grand Finale of The Ocean Race, with the technical support of Sangiorgio Marine, a shipyard famous for the production of high-performance boats (Figure 3). During the event, the company’s CEO Edoardo Bianchi, a two-time Olympian (Tornado class), marine engineer and composites expert, highlighted how his company’s involvement in this project underlines the shipyard’s commitment to sustainability and innovation. The collaboration will continue with the aim of producing recyclable, eco-sustainable racing boats designed to be built with alternative construction techniques.

Fig. 3: Work in progress at Sangiorgio Marine

Sangiorgio and Northern Light Composites (NL) are working on a new 50′ cruiser-racer made of recyclable materials. Edoardo Bianchi declares: “Our objective is to create a shipbuilding hub in Genoa that rests on pillars and principles dear to us such as innovation, research and performance, while respecting the environment. This is a great opportunity to relaunch this sector and our territory.”

The two companies, with the help and verification of third-party certification authorities, will conduct a structured analysis on the impact of boat production that will contribute to the research and development of new materials, already underway today to optimise performance while respecting the environment. The Climate Standard startup has already conducted a similar process to classify the Ecoracer 30 as “carbon neutral”.

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